The mobile banking industry is missing the boat when it comes to helping women in developing countries take advantage of their services, says a new study co-sponsored by Visa and the GSMA, a mobile-industry trade group.
The study focused on women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It included a survey of households, focus groups, and individual interviews. Women made up 75% of the total respondents in the final report.
Although women often have responsibility for managing household finances, low incomes and lack of resources can make it an uphill battle. Key findings of the report include:
- 75% of women surveyed were actively contributing to the household income through small businesses or agricultural sales
- Almost 60% of women surveyed said they were saving money either for daily expenses or for the future
- One-third of women were in charge of paying utility and other bills for the household.
- 95% of women surveyed in Kenya using mobile payments said they view them as secure and private, while only about half of those using cash considered it to be secure and private.
Solving the problem of the mobile banking gender gap in developing countries will be complex, according to the survey, starting with the fact that many of these women do not even own phones – a key reason that they cannot take advantage of mobile banking services. An earlier study by the GSMA, Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity, reported that a woman in a low or middle-income country is 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man.
The study’s recommendations include:
- Making mobile access more available– in Tanzania, 34% of women said they would like to try mobile financial services but lack a phone. In Kenya that number was 13% and in Papua New Guinea it was 10%. Getting phones into the hands of women is the first priority in closing the mobile gender gap.
- Increasing understanding and awareness of what mobile financial services can offer to women. Providers need to prioritize education and communication in order to grow their business in these markets.
- Deliver a high-quality, safe and secure service. Survey respondents said they valued convenience, reliability, security and privacy. A well-trained customer service center can help address this need as well.
- Understand how the barriers to mobile banking vary, country-by-country. Providers need to know that – for example – in Kenya, many women have trouble getting an identification card, and in Pakistan, many women have low literacy levels. These issues make it difficult for them to take advantage of mobile financial services.